How to play your hunch

May 20, 2006|By BILL ORDINE | BILL ORDINE,SUN REPORTER

TIPS FOR THE FIRST-TIME BETTOR

At a racetrack, wagering ceases to be a vice. It's an obligation.

OK, that may be overstating things, but sitting through a full race card without putting down a couple of bucks is like going to the prom and not dancing or drinking punch. What would be the point?

Sure, the horses are beautiful, the jockeys courageous and the race thrilling. But don't kid yourself. That wild cheering as the cavalry charge hits the homestretch has an awful lot to do with folks rooting for their own money.

With that established, here's what you need to know if you plan to back your opinion at the track with some cash.

There are two types of wagers: straight and exotic.

Straight bets are where you bet on horses to win, place or show.

Win is obvious - you win your bet only if the horse that you pick wins the race. Place gives you a better chance - you'll win the wager if your horse finishes first or second. And show gives you the greatest chance because you collect if your horse finishes first, second or third.

The standard wager is $2, and the payoffs on the tote board after the race are expressed in terms of a $2 bet. So if a horse pays $10.60 to win, that means a winning $2 wager returns $10.60 to the bettor. A $10 bet would pay $53 and so on. Generally, win, place and show bets have descending payoff amounts.

Exotic bets involve wagering on more than one horse. The payoffs are bigger, but they're harder to hit.

An exacta bet requires picking the first two finishers in exact order. Get it?

But what if you like two horses but can't decide which one will win? Then you can "box" the exacta, meaning that if the horses finish one-two in any order, you still collect. In fact, you can box three or four horses in an exacta, but increasing the number of horses gets expensive quickly.

A plain exacta bet costs $2, but boxing two horses costs $4 and boxing three costs $12.

A cousin of the exacta is the trifecta, where you can bet on the correct finish of the first three horses. Here you can also box the horses you like, and you can include more than three horses. A plain trifecta costs $2, but to box those same three horses is $12. Boxing five horses costs $48. See what we mean about getting expensive?

Daily doubles involve betting on the winners of two successive races. There are other super-long-shot wagers that involve betting on the winners of many races. The payoffs approach lottery-type numbers, and the chances of hitting are about the same.

So how do you place a wager at a betting window so that you sound like you've been around the paddock a few times?

At the betting window, you tell the teller what race you want to bet, how much you want to wager, the type of wager you want to make, and identify the horse by number rather than name.

Like this: "In the first race, I want $2 to win on No. 6." Or for an exacta box, "In the second race, I'd like a $2 exacta box on 5, 6 and 8." But remember a three-horse exacta box will cost $12.

The next two steps are easy. Cheer and pray.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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